PERICO BAYOU – A film crew followed about 75 volunteers on the last day of National Estuaries Week Saturday as they worked in Perico Bayou, laying oyster shells collected by local restaurants for recycling.
The scenes are slated for a documentary, “Unfiltered: The Truth about Oysters,” which will spotlight the history of oysters from Chesapeake Bay to Apalachicola Bay, including farming efforts, research studies at Florida A&M University, Florida State University and the University of Florida, and the local Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle and Restoration Project.
The project, a partnership between START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide), the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department and the Chiles Group restaurants, recycles oyster shells collected from restaurants, sun-cures them at Perico Preserve and “plants” them, creating new oyster habitats at Perico and Robinson Preserves.
The project is designed to clean area waters, decreasing nutrients that feed red tide and blue-green algae.
Oysters siphon water through their bodies to obtain food, cleaning the water by removing excess nutrients. With each oyster filtering up to 50 gallons of water per day, every acre of restored oyster reef filters nearly 40 million gallons of water each day, according to the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department.
“More oysters mean cleaner water, and cleaner water promotes more oysters,” Education Division Manager Aedan Stockdale said. “These oysters will provide food and habitat for fish, which will, in turn, attract a diversity of birds and other animals as well as provide recreational and commercial opportunities for people.”
Oysters are increasingly threatened, according to film producer Chucha Barber.
“Oyster cultivation dates back hundreds of years,” she said. “The most consumed live animal in the world is now experiencing global decimation. When harvested, both the animals and the habitat (the shells) are removed from nature.”
Barber hopes the film will spread the oyster recycling idea nationwide.
“There isn’t anything like this in Apalachicola,” she said.
For more information on the film, visit www.oyster.film.